Recycling is not new
An emergency situation these days is when the battery runs low on the Smart phone.
“Use it up, wear it out, make do or do without,” was a saying during the Great Depression and during wartime. My dad has told me how they used to switch tires around on vehicles to make a car road worthy, using the four best tires so the boys could go to town on Saturday night.
Most everything in stores was rationed by law; ration cards had to be produced to buy sugar, gasoline, tires and all sorts of expendable goods. Families who raised gardens did okay. My grandparents had a commercial truck garden and an orchard. Dad and Grandpa Wyatt delivered fresh produce throughout the Southern Hills, including to several Civilian Conservation Corps camps.
When I hear someone grousing that their elderly neighbors aren’t recycling, I want to tell the someone about the Great Depression and the hardships of the time. But I don’t waste my breath. This story illustrates the dilemma well.
When a young cashier was checking an older woman out at the cash register, the woman wanted to have plastic bags for her groceries. The cashier, who wouldn’t have the knowledge to count change back if it was requested, got on the woman for not bringing her own cloth bags. The woman replied, “We didn’t have this ‘green thing’ when I was young.” The whipper snapper clerk said, “that is why the world is in such bad shape. The individuals in your generation didn’t care about conserving and recycling to save the environment for the future.”
No, the woman said, we didn’t have plastic bottles; everything was glass and we returned them to the store — the pop bottles, milk bottles and beer bottles — and the store sent them back to the company. The containers were cleaned and re-used over and over. In fact, many times we picked up others’ discarded bottles and turned them into the store. We were paid 2 cents per bottle and we earned enough to buy a few pieces of candy or attend a motion picture. The grocery bags were brown paper instead of plastic. We made book covers to protect our school books and keep them looking new, because we appreciated having them to use. We wrote on the paper covers for fun and didn’t dirty up the books.
If we lived in town, we walked or rode bikes to school and most everywhere else we wanted to go. In the country we rode horses. Our parents rarely drove us; there had to be an overriding reason for that to happen. If we were very lucky our family had a kerosene-powered washing machine which of course had to be used outdoors due to the fumes. We didn’t have disposable diapers. Way before I had children I had washed thousands of cloth diapers to help my mom. We hung them on the line in the sunshine. I guess you could say we used wind and solar power back then, even before it was fashionable.
Now there is a push to carry your own drinking glass where ever you go, so you don’t use plastic or paper cups. We didn’t have that choice. Everyone washed dishes by hand, often after hauling water to the house in buckets. Yet this group who thinks they invented recycling and re-purposing, as they call it, have nothing on the folks from the Depression era and the generation after that. We did all of this without pushiness of the “green thing,” too; it was called necessity. ❖
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